As we sit on the brink, waiting for the world to open, I think it’s a good time to share my outlook on travel and why I encourage everyone to get out and explore if and whenever possible. First, I want to address some common reasons people don’t travel, and express some of my reasonings against these roadblocks – no pun intended! Second, I want to share what I have learned from travel and what I hope everyone has the opportunity to experience.
Traveling and exploring the planet we live on and all the natural and man-made wonders that lie accessible to us is, in my eyes, a right of passage to grasp our existence on Earth and understand how your life fits into the bigger puzzle (not trying to get too existential today, although those conversations fascinate me)! Sounds great, right? Maybe not for everyone. Some reasons people chose NOT to travel, which I have either been told or have witnessed, include:
- I’m a homebody and travel doesn’t interest me
- Travel is expensive
- I don’t have the time
- Going to a foreign country makes me nervous
These are all realistic reasons to not venture away from home. That said, I do have some reservations about these statements which I encourage those who relate to one or more of the above to consider. Or not. I can’t force you. But…I really think you should consider them!
- I’m a homebody and travel doesn’t interest me.
That’s fair. Travel isn’t on everyone’s bucket list and you may have more interest in doing other things. Just be mindful to get out of your local area sometimes to expose yourself to people different than you. Be willing to hear different perspectives, others’ experiences, and why people think or do things the way they do. I believe this generally helps to broaden our perspective and understand others. Who knows, a random stranger you strike up a conversation with might be more like you than you would initially think!
- Travel is expensive.
Yes it is. I can’t deny that. But, I want to start off by recommending you read our earlier post about making travel more accessible here. Keep in mind this was written at the beginning of 2020 before COVID, so our travel hopes were still high at the time! On the bright side, travel rates may have decreased since then! However, some ways to combat steep travel expenses include adjusting your lifestyle to prioritize travel spending, taking alternate modes of transportation, traveling on a budget (be forewarned, this will involve significant research on your part), or traveling to areas of the world that are cheap in comparison to your national currency.
- I don’t have the time.
Vacation time at work is a HOT commodity. Now that I have officially transitioned from school to working life, I understand it’s hard to make time. With that, most of us are stingy with how we use our vacation time. Mel touched on a method to using your time in another of our previous posts here. Incorporating one large trip and two smaller trips per year gives you something to look forward to every couple of months and ensures you get the time you deserve to step away and let your mind and body unwind. Even if your life revolves around a crazy work schedule AND personal schedule, giving yourself that designated time to recuperate and really removing yourself from everyday life is healthy and will help to prevent burnout in the long run. And what better way to spend that time off than to go travel and explore somewhere new!
- Going to a foreign country makes me nervous.
Being nervous or unsure what you will encounter is all part of the travel experience! But, if you’re really not up for international travel, think about how vast your own country/continent is and how much there is to see and do. Consider the diverse cultures across your country/continent. As far as the United States goes, there is a clear culture difference between regions such as the midwest and the south, and even from state to state. If going from the U.S. to China, let’s say, isn’t your cup of tea, go check out the other side of the country, or consider traveling to countries similar enough to yours in language and culture. For example (again, speaking as an American): Canada, Ireland, the U.K., Australia, and parts of the Caribbean. You might be surprised at how many similarities you’ll find!
And speaking of foreign countries, I’d like to share with you some take-aways from my trips abroad and my travel experiences in general. First of all, travel is a complete and total eye opener. You get to see all sorts of new and intriguing things often different than you or your “normal”. At minimum, forcing yourself out of your comfort zone or your home allows you to open your eyes further and gives you a greater perspective of yourself and your position on Earth. It really helps to make the world feel smaller while inspiring a sense of purpose.
Just the exposure to culture, diverse thought, and new ways of doing things is also SO worth it. As a traveler, you gain a new perspective on the world, a deeper understanding of everything around you, and appreciation for the things you have. Here are some of the most eye-opening experiences I have had so far:
- Driving past the slums on our way from the airport in Santiago, Chile…and Seattle, Washington
- Waving off all of the gypsies in Rome and outside the Vatican
- Being chased after down the street by our waitress in Japan as she would not accept our tip money and wanted to return it to us
- Passing the dirt floor huts in rural Dominican Republic and being grateful for everything I have back at home
- Watching as kids beat up on another in the middle of the street in Brussels and no passerby caring to intervene
- Experiencing Norway’s winter in January and seeing the similarity to winter back at home in Ohio
- Seeing painted stars on the streets in parts of Mexico, put there by the locals, which mark every spot where a civilian was killed by the cartel
- Breathing in all the cigarette smoke that is still very common throughout Europe (Switzerland stands out the most)
- Understanding my own problems look a lot different than those of the Saint Martin locals struggling to reunite and rebuild after a hurricane
- Enjoying the company of total strangers as we all held our glasses up and sang to the live music in the Dublin pubs
All of these memories have left a lasting impact on me. I encourage you, if you have the means and the interest to do so, get out there and see more of the world. Travel really is all about identifying the beauty in difference, and the struggle and compassion that unites us all.
“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign” – Robert Louis Stevenson